TAMPA — More than 20 divers spent two hours Saturday scouring the waters around Davis Islands for litter left behind by revelers Jan. 25 during the Gasparilla parade and pirate invasion.
Their haul: More than 38 pounds of plastic beads.
Cleaning up after the annual extravaganza is important to protect marine life, said Chris Tomlinson, a diver with the Florida Aquarium.
"If beads stay in the water for too long, they can release chemicals into our waters, animals can eat them, or they can break down into harmful micro-plastics.” Tomlinson said.
The aquarium and Port Tampa Bay have also taken part in the larger After Gasparilla Cleanup, which removed 4,700 pounds of litter and collected over 30,000 beads across Tampa Bay, according to a news release. The 10th annual cleanup is sponsored by Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful. The aquarium also collected 2,300 pounds of beads from parade-goers through its Keep Beads out of the Bay initiative.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor called attention to the post-parade litter by rolling out an education campaign in the weeks before the event with the brand “Bead Free Bay.” Signs were posted at all city docks.
The aquarium was a partner in the campaign.
Joining the aquarium in the Saturday cleanup were divers from Green Gasparilla, Calypso Dive and the National Association of Underwater Instructors.
One way beads end up in the bay is when they’re tossed by those riding with he flotilla of private boats that tags along behind the signature José Gasparilla pirate ship on the morning of the parade.
The organization that puts on the parade — Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla — worked with the Coast Guard to issue a litter law notice to all mariners.